Review – Missile Command: Recharged

Even though I’m much younger than the average person who grew up with an Atari 2600, I actually have played quite a bit of Missile Command  back when I was a kid, as I had a port of the game for my old Game Boy. I can’t say I was a huge fan of that game, but I’d play it every now and then. I knew about the franchise, its Atari origins, and its simple gameplay loop. I was surprised with the announcement of Missile Command: Recharged, Atari’s latest attempt in bringing back one of their classic franchises to modern consoles.

I was expecting some wacky additions or changes to the franchise’s formula, such as changing the entire gameplay to incorporate a brand new and previously unrelated genre, just like PONG Quest did a few weeks ago. Welp, that’s not the case. Missile Command: Recharged is basically Missile Command, but on the Switch, with a brand new coat of paint. Whether that’s good news or bad news is completely up to you.

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Starting out with high hopes…

For those who don’t know, Missile Command is classic arcade title with a very simple gameplay loop: tons of missiles are slowly falling down from the top of the screen, and it’s to you to defend your base by shooting equally slow rockets at the sky, creating area of effect explosions that destroy any missile that touches them. Given the constant movement of both your missiles and the enemy’s, the game is all about carefully planning where to shoot and when, in order to save ammo and resources.

Missile Command: Recharged features the same arcade-like gameplay. If you have played any version of the game, with the exception of the mediocre Missile Command 3D for Atari Jaguar, you know what to expect: keep shooting at the enemy rockets until they eventually overwhelm you and destroy your base. There are a few additions in here, but they don’t influence the overall gameplay that much, and honestly, I think that was a good idea.

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Not to worry, I can still make a comeback.

The only main gameplay addition is the fact that you can buy “upgrades” with the scores obtained in-game. They are mostly comprised of improvements to your missile’s speed or reducing your overall reloading time. This turns Missile Command: Recharged into a game that features an inverted difficulty curve. You start off by not being able to destroy a lot of enemies before being overwhelmed, but the more you persevere, the faster you’ll be able to purchase upgrades to make your life easier.

The other additions are either cosmetic or small gimmicks that take advantage of the Switch’s hardware. It features touch controls, but it makes the game way too easy, as all you need to do is double tap on wherever you want your missile to be shot, instead of moving your crosshair around the map and pressing a button. This can still be done here and it’s still the recommended control scheme due to its challenging nature. The graphics and sound design are very reminiscent of another recently released Atari game, Tempest 4000. It’s all vector-based and full of neon lights and strobing effects, which is a perfect fit for a retro revival game like this one. The soundtrack is comprised of one constantly looping techno tune, which isn’t memorable at all, though.

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Nevermind, I’m doomed.

Missile Command: Recharged didn’t try to revamp the franchise’s formula with revolutionary gameplay changes, but honestly, I think that worked for the best. It’s just a fairly good attempt to bring the franchise to modern consoles, being best enjoyed on the Switch due to its portability. If you’re a fan of retro gaming and Atari’s history, don’t you worry, it’s as good as any other Missile Command game has ever been. If you’re not part of that demographic, however, I doubt this game will turn you into a retro gaming afficionado. It knows its core audience and it’s catered to them.

 

Graphics: 7.5

This brand new vector-based coat of paint fits perfectly with the game’s retro vibe and with Atari’s own history. The lighting effects and framerate are better than expected as well.

Gameplay: 8.0

There are two control schemes. You can either use the Switch’s touchscreen, which makes the game a lot easier and less exciting, or the analog stick with the B button, making the game more challenging and more in par with its predecessors.

Sound: 5.5

An electronic soundtrack that fits perfectly with the game’s neon-filled visuals, but largely forgettable as a whole.

Fun Factor: 6.5

With the exception of the handful of randomly generated powerups and purchasable upgrades, this is a no-nonsense recreation of Missile Command for a modern console. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, nor it needs to. Best enjoyed in small sessions.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Missile Command: Recharged is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Missile Command: Recharged was provided by the publisher.

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